I’d been planning to write up a post today called “Thanksgaming,” but then I noticed Bob Mackey has an article by that very name on the site I work for. Man, that Mackey dude is such a jerk.
But yes: this year’s Thanksgiving break has been fairly unusual for me in that I normally use the time off as an excuse to slack off and get in some gaming. It’s usually a good time to catch up on things; at the very least, it’s a couple of days with some open time that I can spend, guilt-free, in front of a television. Of course, this year I had to go and squander my holiday on being productive, but I guess that’s just me becoming more obsessive in my old age. That and, you know, the whole working constantly with the medium thing makes a couple of days of surreptitious decadence feel less interesting — the last Thanksgiving gaming marathon I can recall was blasting through a reviewable copy of Final Fantasy IV Advance three years ago, notable mainly because it was (1) the first time I’d realized the game does in fact have a story linking its disconnected dungeons and (2) ’cause I was playing it on a GBA lockbox, which had a painfully dim screen and weighed about 2 pounds more than a normal GBA. So I had to really want to play it.
More interesting was, hmm…I suppose 1990? Whenever Maniac Mansion was first released for NES. I acquired the game in the best kind of Black Friday transaction, which is to say I asked my father to look for it when he bravely went to face the crowds at 7 a.m. and he dropped in my hands an hour later. Painless! For me, anyway, although I think it’s only been in recent years that these post-Thanksgiving sales have gone from being “a bit crowded” to “oh god I want to kill myself wait it looks like the press of bodies will take care of that for meaaargh.” What better way to reflect on the bounty of a middle class American lifestyle than by exploding hamsters in the microwave?
And of course a few years later, Nintendo kicked off its new policy of releasing its most notable game for each year two days before Thanksgiving in the form of Donkey Kong Country. It took me almost two days of intermittent playing to reach the Ewok village level, at which point I sadly admitted to myself that despite looking impressive the game was boring and stupid. So I decided to beat Final Fantasy III a second time. In retrospect, I’m proud of young me. He was a bright kid.
Of course, the best Thanksgaming (that’s right, Mackey, I’m taking my word back) came back when I was a wee sprout and my grandparents were the resident supervisors at the men’s dorm at the local Christian college. Every year we’d have a huge lunch spread in the dorm lobby for our family and all the guys who couldn’t afford to return home for the break — notably the international students — and, this being in the heyday of the arcade, the vendors who leased the half-dozen or so arcade cabinets in the lobby would put the machines on free play. By the end of the day, I’d be stuffed with great food after grazing non-stop at the buffet table, and my eyes would burn from staring at Tempest and Centipede all day (not to mention the copies of Star Wars and Krull they had playing constantly in my grandparents’ shiny new VCR). I’m pretty sure that was the closest thing to paradise an 8-year-old could possibly know.
Geez, no wonder I ended up writing about games for a living. Thanksgiving at my grandparents’ was like some sort of Pavlovian conditioning experiment.